Governor Glenn Youngkin defends school choice

Opponents say the push for charter schools could lead to segregation; Part IV of 10 On Your Side’s “State of Education” series

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin gestures during a press conference on an executive order establishing K-12 lab schools at the Capitol, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/ Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) – “School Choice”: Two simple words that carry a lot of weight on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s agenda.

Youngkin is pushing to give parents more choices for public education. It is support $150 million for twenty new laboratory schools – elementary or secondary schools that partner with a college – statewide.

“To make sure our kids are ready for college, or careers, or both,” he said. “This is a monumental moment for us. This is why Virginians elected us this year – because they wanted new things in education.

But some opponents – including members of the previous administration – suggest that more choice only creates more problems.

“Choosing the school didn’t work out. We have so much historical data,” said Atif Qarni, the former education secretary under Governor Ralph Northam.

Democrats initially rejected the bill that would have made it easier to establish these schools, but are open to a bill that would make some changes.

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“The thing is school choice, lab schools, charter schools, governor schools, magnet schools — you can take a select group of students in a small class, and you don’t You don’t have to cater for special educational needs, you don’t have to cater for the needs of English language learners,” Qarni said.

Public schools are funded on the basis of what is called ADM, which stands for Average Daily Membership. Essentially, the number of students for each school is assessed throughout the year and if fewer students attend the school, the less that specific school can get from the state.

Qarni says this leads to what he calls a bigger problem.

“[School choice] led to more segregation historically,” he said. “It did not work.”

We specifically asked Youngkin if he thinks school choice creates segregation.

“No, I don’t believe they are promoting segregation,” he said. “What I think we can do is bring innovation to the parts of our school where we need it most.”

A bipartisan version of the school choice bill is currently making its way in Richmond. It makes some changes to Youngkin’s original proposal, including protecting funding for local schools.

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